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Yes, these Japanese inventions are weird, but we can’t stop staring at them

by Joey Davidson | May 27, 2019May 27, 2019 10:30 am EDT

These “unuseless” Japanese inventions are called chindogu.

The term chindogu loosely translates to unusual or weird tool, as coined by Japanese inventor and editor Kenji Kawakami. Kawakami’s guidelines dictate that chindogu can’t really be used, but they must physically be created and seem useful.

Chindogu are inventions for everyday life problems that are so convoluted and weird that they elicit laughter.

A few years back, I found a book on chindogu written by Kawakami himself. To this day, it remains my favorite coffee table book and one of the best conversation starters I own. It’s called The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions. It’s less than 10 bucks on Amazon, and it’s worth every penny.

All the images in this story were taken from this book. I highly recommend it for a laugh.

Let’s take a look at some of my favorites.

What makes a really good chindogu?

My favorite chindogu are the ones the make me question my own reality. I’ll look them and several things run through my mind.

  1. Is this a real problem that people have?
  2. It must be, they’ve invented a solution.
  3. This solution looks like it could work!
  4. But, boy, this person looks like an idiot.

Consider the “Back Scratcher’s T-Shirt.” I love this idea.

We’ve all had an itchy back. Besides griding up against a nearby doorframe, the best solution is asking a friend or partner to scratch for you. Those conversations are always great.

“A little higher.”

“No, too high.”

“To the rig– too far! Come back.”

This chindogu solves that problem with a game of Back Scratchin’ Battleship. Got an itch? Whip out the card and call out coordinates for your friend to bomb on your behalf.

Seems like this solution could work! Until you realize that you’d always have to weird this shirt, and you can just forget about it if you ever misplace the coordinate card.

This is the perfect chindogu.

I’ll leave you with this. This collection of chindogu was published in 2005; but, Kawakami began gathering the inventions in the early 90s. One such invention from way back then? Have a look at the “selfie-stick…”

Who says these are all bad ideas? You just have to be willing to look stupid while using them.


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Joey Davidson

Joey Davidson is a dad. That makes finding time to nerd out about games, movies, TV, books, cooking, beer and whatever else super difficult. It's